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Rituals

July 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Rituals organize our lives. We ritualize our days, and have special rituals for some days. Monday to Friday, we do our morning ablutions, maybe eat something, and hurry off to the job. Throughout the day, on the job, a ritual of productivity proceeds. The journey to the job and the return to home at workday’s end are also rituals. Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday might be rituals unlike the workday rituals, but rituals all the same. Those of us that embrace religion have even more rituals. It matters not which religion one chooses to follow, rituals will be a big part of it.

A young couple lived a neatly organized and busy life. They lived in a small bungalow with just two bedrooms. They planned to have a family after five years, when they could afford a larger home. The second bedroom was Richard Stern’s office, in which he worked on line for a large transportation company. Mona Stern, Richard’s young wife, was a tax consultant. She worked for a large accounting firm. She was a certified public accountant, and had risen to become supervisor over a staff of nine. It was one of several ‘cells’. The company found that ‘teams’ in separate cells were more productive.

Mona Stern enjoyed her rituals. She’d rise at six in the morning, go straight to the bathroom to relieve herself and to shower. She would wear the outfit she planned the previous evening. In the small kitchen, she would enjoy her orange juice, rye toast and coffee while watching the news and weather report on her tablet. After the weather predictions, the sports news came on. Mona turned off her tablet, put it into her handbag, and left for the walk to the office. It was five blocks to her place of business.

By eight o’clock, Mona Stern was striding happily along Acorn Road, observing the many small, neat bungalows similar to her own. Ancient Oak trees shaded the street until the next corner. The busy rush hour was under way on Charles Avenue as it was every morning. As on every weekday morning, Mona turned right and strode along the narrow sidewalk. Old industrial buildings encroached on the sidewalk. They were remnants of the industrial revolution and had stood empty for decades. Mona ignored the cars lined up at red lights. She enjoyed her walk every morning, and was comfortable in the familiar routine that she had been repeating every morning for five years.

In the next block, an old building that had been a garment factory was to be transformed into luxury apartments, with the high ceilings and huge windows as selling points. The fact that there was a change taking place along her route after five years was just a bit unsettling. It altered the routine walk to work.

There were pickup trucks along the curb. Rubber cones were guiding the heavy traffic into one lane, around the trucks. High up on the roof parapet, people were installing a heavy beam to project out from the building. It was needed to create an elevator of sorts, to carry up workers, equipment, and materials. Mona was annoyed at the traffic clamour, and hastened her pace, to escape the irregularities.

At that moment, the rooftop workers faltered in their job. The beam dropped, slowly rotating top to bottom. It did not hit the sidewalk lengthwise. End first, the beam struck the old concrete walkway, pierced it like a piecrust and buried itself two feet into the ground. It hit the spot where Mona Stern had been, a second before she hurried to get away from the cacophony of car horns and engine roars.

The blasting sounds of the beam demolishing the concrete right behind her startled Mona. She jumped and turned around to see dust and particles swirling around an eight-foot tall steel beam. A nearby worker asked if she was okay, but Mona didn’t answer, she just strode on her way to her office. She used a quicker pace than her usual, ritual stride.

Throughout the rest of her day, Mona Stern struggled to do her work on the Dominica and Bolivar account. She struggled to stay focused while she assigned her team to various parts of her employer’s largest and most profitable account. The dropped beam, and the vast repercussions that might have come had it hit her, invaded her mind. She sat at her desk and analysed the routine that she knew so well. She began to question the wisdom of so regular a routine. Perhaps a change of situation, rather than a predictable routine, would be safer and perhaps beneficial. Mona resolved not to follow her usual, routine stroll home.

The office closed at four-forty-five. Mona Stern took the time to leave her files in impeccable order, her desk clear and the tools of her profession alongside her computer keyboard. She left the building moments after her staff and coworkers departed. In her normal routine, she would turn left and stride the route home. On this occasion, Mona turned right out of the building and strode in the direction away from home, husband, and fallen beam.

With no preparation and little thought, the young woman strode as far as the train station and boarded a train because it was leaving soon. Mona Stern didn’t care where the train was going; she just needed it to be free of routine.

At the point where the train journey terminated, Mona left the train. She attained an apartment, a professional position, and a new life. She fell in love with a co-worker that fell in love with her. They moved in together. Meanwhile, the young husband back home was frantic with worry. It seemed the authorities could not find Mona because she changed her name to Rose Kroll.

Rose Kroll, formerly Mona Stern, lived with her new husband in a neat bungalow within walking distance of her office. Her new husband began to work from home designing furniture. Every morning Rose showered, enjoyed orange juice, rye toast and coffee while watching the news on her tablet. When the weather forecast ended and the sports news came on, Rose Kroll left the home to walk to her office.

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The Human Need for Stupid Stunts

June 10, 2017 1 comment

Bernie and I were both 17 years old. He was a couple of months older than I was, and we were close pals. In fact, our steady girlfriends were identical twins, one with him and one with me. We eventually married the twins, but that’s another story.

One night, Bernie and I went out to the quiet, wide highway 400 to do a stupid stunt. It was in the 1950s, when cars were huge. I was driving my father’s massive, cream coloured ’57 Buick Roadmaster. Bernie was driving his Aunt Lillian’s dark blue ‘53 Cadillac Coup de Ville. We roared up the empty highway at 3:30 one morning. We went side by side, Bernie on my left, me on his right. I powered down my window as did Bernie’s then girlfriend, and I reached to her and she took my hand. We roared up the road at about 100 miles an hour (160 km/h), two feet apart, holding hands, for no reason except the big V8 engines could do it.

The drive for stupid stunts must be quite strong in some people’s DNA.

In Toronto and Montreal, and perhaps other cities with subways, young people leap onto the exterior of the subway car and cling to the side as the train roars through the dark tunnels. I haven’t heard if anyone’s been killed or injured yet, but it is inevitable. Why do they do it? Perhaps they believe they’re showing courage and skill, although it’s actually reckless and foolish.

We scuba dive amid predators; we race cars; we ride motorcycles across deserts; we sail boats across oceans, for sport. Some of us need the challenge, the risk, the adrenaline dose that comes with pressure or anxiety.

I’ve done a good deal of auto racing, and ridden some motorcycles, and even did a fair amount of hang gliding. I enjoyed all of it, although I don’t really know why, except for the ‘stone’ one enjoys when the adrenaline sharpens all the senses. We see better, we hear more acutely, and our bodies feel fit and strong. I now get a good feeling from reading, writing, drawing and commenting on others’ works.

If one lives past the age of reckless foolishness, one learns the value of deeper activities.

Fear is not Respect

June 9, 2017 Leave a comment

I remember hearing the expression, “God fearing person.” I interpret that to mean that one had better toe the line on god’s rules. I’ve heard tough, muscled bikers declare that they have respect from the people. He means fear, just as does the god devoted. I suspect that dedicated Christian people sometimes attend church out of fear that they might be damned for not attending services. That’s why religion, in general, is bunk. Christians are supposed to believe in gentleness, generosity, and living simply.

There are millions of so-called Christians living high and handsomely, not simply. Why?

Through the media, most people know that gangsters, mobsters, and Mafia soldiers are very proud that they are respected by the community. That’s a lot of crap. One night they beat the crap out of a guy who owns a little restaurant. He likes his current supplier of smoked meats, but cowards pretending to be brave have to make him change suppliers, so they beat him. They threaten his family. The neighbourhood knows about it, so they act respectful to the thugs. But it’s just an act. It’s actually fear. They would rather pee on the punks’ shoes, but they’d get beaten.

Real respect is earned, not demanded. A dedicated doctor deserves – and receives – respect, with no fear involved. Clergymen, authors, artists, musicians all can earn respect in their own ways. Thugs and people with guns deserve fear, not respect.

Treasure Lake – Moonless

March 17, 2017 Leave a comment

The silence in the afternoon heat on the small river was ominous. The cacophony of bird and insect songs had died away as if on siesta in the midday sun. It was fortuitous however, because Caroline Rich was able to hear a hacking cough and spitting in the dense foliage to their right.

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“Stay quiet,” Caroline whispered. “They’re over there somewhere. I heard a guy coughing.”

“You’re right,” Solly Cohen said. “I smell cigar smoke.”

“I can see it!” Phyllis Snitzer said.

“It’s a good thing we stopped to discuss how to proceed,” Rob Snitzer said.

“How will we proceed, come to think of it?” Solly said.

“I’m sure they don’t want to spend the night,” Caroline said. “They’ll probably take off long before it gets dark.”

They sat in their canoes in the shade of overhanging willows. Quietly, they made ham and cheese sandwiches and drank some of their bottled water. They all took an afternoon nap. They hadn’t realized how much energy they had exhausted, as well as the toll taken by stress. Caroline and Phyllis in their bow positions lay back onto the packs that filled the centre of each canoe. With their hats over their faces, they dozed.

Solly and Rob, in the stern seats, lay back onto the small. They also fell fitfully asleep. Rob was the first to get up, wakened by the active insects that swarm after sundown. Darkness was only an hour away, and the aircraft hadn’t moved. Its engine was so loud, it could not possibly have started up without waking them.

Again, even over the din from the night creatures, coughing could be heard from the plane’s hiding place, and the cigar smoke continued to foul the pristine forest fragrance.

“This might be a break for us,” Rob said. “In the dark, we can cut straight across the lake.”

“What if they hear us?” Phyllis said.

“Solly and I can paddle silently, like the natives did,” Rob said. “We learned how at summer camp, years ago.”

“So if you don’t know how, just don’t paddle,” Solly said.

“It’s no big deal,” Caroline said. “You just have to break the water gently to avoid making an audible splash.”

“And don’t hit the gunnel with the paddle,” Phyllis said.

“Okay,” Rob said, “You know how to do it. So let’s eat light and wait ‘til after eleven to cross.”

morning-moon-oct-20-13

“Why after eleven,” Solly said.

“The moon will be down by then.  It’s going to be bright tonight, and it’s going to set at about ten-thirty.” Rob said.

The time dragged and they were getting stiff from sitting in the canoes for so many hours. Finally, the sky grew darker as the moon sank below the horizon. With the removal of the brightness that obliterated most of the distant stars, the pure sky shed a dim, serene light. There were billions of tiny specks of light beyond the more familiar, closer stars.

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The surface of the lake was absolutely motionless, like a black mirror.  As the four friends set out to stealthily cross the lake, the stars appeared to envelope them. The stars above were reflected flawlessly in the mirror surface, giving the canoeists the sensation of paddling through eternity, with stars all around, above and below them.

Treasure Lake – A Run For The Money

March 17, 2017 Leave a comment

The single engine pontoon plane did not land on the nearby lake. It began to patrol, looking for the two canoes and their one million, six hundred thousand dollars in Krugerrand gold. Rob Snitzer felt they should just stay put until the plane gave up and landed or left. Caroline Rich also thought that was best for the moment. Phyllis Snitzer agreed that it was probably the best thing, but she was not happy about it.

“I just want to get out of this ‘hunted’ thing,” Phyllis said. “It’s wearing me down.”

“We’re all in the same boat – as it were,” Solly Cohen said, “and we should keep positive. Think of all that gold.”

“I don’t think the gold is going to do us any good, financially,” Caroline said. “You could walk into a bank with one Krugerrand, I guess, and get cash for it, but I think walking in with even ten of them would cause an investigation. Walk in with a hundred of them, and it would bring big problems.”

“So what should we do with them?” Rob said.

“Turn them in to the authorities and hope there’s a reward offered,” Caroline said.

“I don’t really trust the authorities,” Solly said.

“What if we divide them up between us, and we each take one every two weeks to different banks or something, and open bank accounts with it,” Phyllis said. “It would be like getting three thousand bucks a month, tax free.”

“That would be, like, four thousand bucks if we had to pay taxes on it,” Caroline said. “To get three thousand clear, we’d need to make four thousand and give one to the government.”

“It sounds like the plane is leaving,” Rob said.

“I think it’s landing, not leaving,” Solly said.

“Whatever it’s doing, it’s not in the air for now, so let’s get going,” Rob said.

The foursome pushed off from under the willow branches and set a steady pace up the small waterway. On one occasion, they came upon a beaver, pulling a small branch to its lodge. An hour later, they came upon a large beaver dam. A small lake had built up behind it.

They didn’t want to do a full portage with loaded canoes for so short a distance. They just had to go around the end of the dam where it’s attached to the shore. Wet grass and mud around the end of the dam would allow for easy sliding of the aluminum bottoms up to the new lake level. On the charts and GPS, there had been no lake there the previous year. The beavers had created it for their own purposes.

It was obvious that the lake was quite deep in places, because the tops of dead mature trees protruded through the surface in several places. Other places, the trees stood in shallow water and the canoeists paddled through and amongst them until the beaver lake opened out into a larger lake that had been there long before.

“What now?” Solly said. “If we go straight across, we’ll be sitting ducks if the plane is around here.”

“What if we hide the chest here somewhere, and return for it another time?” Caroline said.

“That won’t help us get away from these people” Rob said. “Don’t forget we saw them dump the dead guy with the chest. If we go around the edge of the lake, we can hide in the foliage if we have to. The problem is, it will take hours to get to the tributary that will get back to our starting point.”

Several hundred metres from the canoeists, where they paused at the mouth of their tributary, the aircraft rested on its pontoons just out of sight. Its occupants had hunches that the people with their treasure would cross this lake, hoping to gain their freedom from pursuit. If the canoes emerged from cover, the plane would power up and catch them easily.

Treasure Lake – Hunters Hunting

March 16, 2017 Leave a comment

The air boat was cruising slowly down the shallow channel that passed in front of the blind of bulrushes. They listened to its approach, the big propeller spinning slowly – pukata-pukata-pukata – as the vessel drew adjacent to the hiding place where the four young people in their canoes hid behind the rushes.

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Solly had his slingshot pulled back to maximum, planning to send a knockout hit with the only shot he was likely to have. He arranged for Phyllis and Caroline to part the rushes at the precise moment when he could let fly the stone. The driver of the air boat sat up high in front of the engine while the guy with the gun sat below him. Solly made the best judgement he could, shooting just ahead of the driver’s head to allow for the boat’s forward movement.

“Now,” Solly called. The two girls pulled bundles of rushes to the right and the left, and through the open space, Solly let fly the stone. Before the gunman or the driver could react to the parting of the rushes, the projectile struck the driver in the head, hard. He slumped forward, and knocked the speed control to full speed.  At the same time, he fell from his high seat onto the gunman below him.

They were in a tangle on the floor of the vessel unable to rise because the acceleration of the airboat when the driver’s fall pushed the speed to maximum. They shot forward several meters and struck a floating log.  The impact bounced the nose of the boat up into the air and the fast revolving propeller launched them up and over.  They fell back into the water upside down. The propeller kicked up a mess of froth, water and weeds until it sank back and the engine was choked out with water.

“Okay,” Caroline Rich said, “let’s get out of here.”

“Not so fast,” Rob Snitzer said. “I want to see if those guys are okay, or need help or something.”

“Are you crazy?” Phyllis Snitzer shouted at her brother in the other canoe. “They’re here to kill us!”

At that moment, both men broke the surface, sputtering and wiping their eyes with their hands. They saw Solly Cohen with his slingshot, and the other three, and started to come for them in the waist deep water and weeds.  Progress was slow and laborious.

“Okay,” Rob said.  “They’re okay, so let’s get out of here.” They paddled their canoes out from behind the natural blind of bulrushes and started to stroke briskly away.

“Hey, wait,” the boat owner called, “don’t leave us stuck here! How will we get out of here?” At the same time, the gunman fished his rifle out of the water, shook water out of the barrel and hastily prepared to shoot at the foursome.

The bullets blipped into the water on either side of the canoes. Clearly, the gun was not functioning ideally, and the gunman was soaked, sputtering, and clearly out of his element.

Stroking hard, both canoes moved out of range quite quickly and headed for the tributary that should lead them back to their cars and eventual escape. Within minutes, the drone of the single engine aircraft could be heard approaching. The canoes were guided under some overhanging willow branches where they waited until the aircraft landed or moved on.

Vigilante Girls

July 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Me, my sister and three friends sometimes watch reality homicide shows together. I was the first one to get into watching the series’ about police work and forensic sciences. When I started talking about how I enjoyed these shows, and learned so much about police work, the four of them became fans as well.

My name is Monique, my twin sister is Martine and our three friends are Carol, Barbara and Nancy. We frequently gathered together at one’s home or another for our ‘Homicide Evenings’. We enjoyed “The First 48 hours”, “Dark Waters of Crime” and “Deadly Encounters”. We began to notice that women were almost always the victims of cruelty, torture and murder. Most often they were young women, sometimes older women, married women, frequently mothers. Of course, women living high-risk lives were most frequently victims. This would be party girls, drug addicts and prostitutes.

I admit, we often fantasized about getting even with the guys who did this stuff. Maybe abuse guys who abuse women and children. It was just idle talk, letting off steam. After all, we couldn’t actually do anything. All five of us come from families that are quite high on the net worth scale. We didn’t really want for anything growing up. We’ve known each other since we were eight. We met at the exclusive Schiestmiester Boarding School we went to in Switzerland.

We were still friends when we entered the same university, one of the most desirable Ivy League schools. In university, we did most everything together. We chipped in on lottery tickets; we lived off campus in a four bedroom house that was convenient to school. We even went on vacations together. Of course there were men in and out of our lives along the way. We’re not lesbians. We all usually have lovers but none of us felt drawn into marriage with any of our dates.

We all did well. I’m a PhD in chemistry, Martine is a surgeon, Carol is a marine biologist, Barbara is a playwright and Nancy is a sculptor. When we could schedule evenings for us to all get together, we did so to watch, enjoy, and study the real life homicide and forensic shows. During our relaxing coffee times, we tossed around ideas on what we might have done had we been in the law enforcement group investigating each of the cases we watched.

Speaking for myself, it began to eat at me that there were so many cases of women being beaten time and again by the man they love. The same man who claimed to love in return. It was like a rage within me. It grew slowly and steadily as more and more frequently we’d see women treated like chattel or trash. Video of the crime scene fills the television screen. There might be a young woman lying stark naked beside a highway, blood flowing from the hole in her head down over her nose to drip on the dirt roadside. In another case, an older woman is strangled to death in her garage after she is raped by three different men. I resolved to speak to the girls at our next homicide evening and ask for a discussion on the state of women’s safety.

I asked for the next gathering to be at my place and everyone agreed. It was six days later before we were all available, and that suited me perfectly. It gave me time to prepare a surprise presentation.

(to be continued)